The 2021 incoming freshman class is stacked.
With last year’s First-Year Player Draft lasting only five rounds due to COVID-19, numerous high school standouts who would have otherwise started their pro careers opted for college. In fact, this year’s freshman class is so talented and deep that when we selected players for College Baseball Nation's inaugural Freshman All-America Teams, we had to leave off multiple players who would have been locks in any other year.
OF Chad Born, poached by the Hurricanes from the California sandlots like Pat Burrell and Ryan Braun in years past, was MVP of Miami’s Fall World Series but couldn’t crack either All-America team. Virginia’s Kyle Teel, a polished catcher who had success against tough Northwoods League arms last summer, is also nowhere to be found. And OF Mario Zabala from FIU, arguably the most tooled up player in the class, was omitted from the list.)
In addition to the high talent level this incoming freshman class boasts, the other characteristic that distinguishes it from past rookie classes is its (relative) old age. Of the 28 players on both teams, a staggering eight players will be draft eligible next year. Of course, this is partially attributable to MLB moving the draft from the first week in June to mid-July, thereby making players born as late as the end of August/early September 2001 eligible for the 2022 draft. (Sophomores who turn 21 within six weeks after the draft may be selected in that year’s draft.) Still, given that the 2022 college draft crop was already considered exceptionally strong, the influx of at least eight additional studs will only add to the fun.
Kevin Parada (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Georgia Tech—After graduating Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters, and Joey Bart, Georgia Tech has established itself as the premier finishing school for catchers. Parada, a California native, has a well-developed bat to go along with outstanding receiving skills.
Caden Grice, LHH, Clemson—A mountain of a man at 6-06/225, Grice’s game features immense power, and he impressed observers this fall with moonshot after moonshot. This spring, Grice should also see time on the mound, where he sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and has good command of his breaking ball.
Colby Halter (2022 draft eligible), LHH, Florida—Halter has been on scouts’ radar for several years and for good reason—he has a beautiful left-handed swing that smacks line drives from foul pole to foul pole. Although he has mostly played on the left side of the infield, he will see time at 2B for Florida this spring.
Yohandy Morales, RHH, Miami (FL)—Though Rosario and Mederos have gotten most of the headlines from this Miami class, Morales should have a huge impact in Coral Gables. Despite his physicality (6-04/195), Morales is nimble in the field and packs a punch in the batter’s box. He’s slated to begin the year as Miami’s starting SS.
Oklahoma SS Cade Horton would have been in this slot but was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament in early February that will sideline him for the entire 2021 season.
Cayden Wallace (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Arkansas—Wallace will likely start 2021 in RF in deference to defensive stalwart Jacob Nesbit, but his power bat and cannon arm give him the ideal 3B profile. Wallace is another guy who had a monster fall.
Slade Wilks (2022 draft eligible), LHH, Southern Miss—Wilks has ridiculous power, which he showed off this fall. If he can fine tune his plate discipline and approach against breaking stuff away, he’ll be a Day 1 pick next year.
Chase Davis, LHH, Arizona—With a Wildcats’ OF packed with experienced veterans, Davis may have to wait his turn before his high-octane bat and rifle arm are on full display.
Dylan Crews, RHH, LSU—Crews was universally regarded as the highest ranked high schooler to matriculate this autumn. A compact 6-00/190, Crew’s strong wrists generate Clint Frazier-type bat speed and give him over-the-fence power in any ballpark. He’s also an above average defender with a strong arm.
Cole Foster, SH, Auburn—Foster, an ultra-polished switch-hitting SS, is expected to see most of his playing time at 2B this spring due to the presence of Ryan Bliss. He should be the Tigers’ full-time SS next year.
Carson Montgomery, RHP, FSU—Montgomery was the highest rated high school pitcher to go undrafted in 2020. He showed up to Tallahassee throwing cheese that scraped the high 90’s with improved command. It’s only a matter of time before he’s the Seminoles’ ace.
Tanner Witt, RHP, Texas—Witt, whose father Kevin played parts of five seasons in the big leagues, was better known as a slugging 3B during his first three years of high school; however, his stock soared as a hurler his senior year and he had multiple teams willing to give him a seven-figure signing bonus. Witt’s heater can touch the mid-90’s and the spin rate on his curveball approaches the 3000 RPM mark. He could vie for the Longhorns’ Sunday starter role.
Alejandro Rosario, RHP, Miami (FL)—Barely 6-00/170, Rosario isn’t an imposing presence on the mound, yet he throws mid-90’s gas with an equally vicious slider. After the Hurricanes’ entire weekend rotation graduated to the pros, it would be a surprise if Rosario doesn’t get a weekend assignment.
Victor Mederos (2022 draft eligible), RHP, Miami (FL)—Unlike his teammate Rosario, Mederos, at 6-03/215, easily fits the description of mound enforcer and he has the power arsenal to match. Mederos’ best pitch is an electric fastball that routinely touches 96 MPH, but his other three offerings all grade out as at least average.
Ryan Hagenow, RHP, Kentucky—Hagenow is a highly projectable right-hander with plenty of room to fill out his 6-05/200 frame. His change-up is uncommonly effective for such a young pitcher, and he has uncanny command of a lethal slider.
Daniel Susac (2022 draft eligible), SH, Arizona—After the Wildcats lost both Austin Wells and Matthew Dyer in the draft, Arizona’s starting catching job is Susac’s to lose. Equipped with a 6-03/215 pro body, power from both sides of the plate, and a howitzer behind it, Susac could quickly establish himself as one of the nation’s best all-around backstops.
Tre Morgan, LHH, LSU—Morgan enjoyed an illustrious prep career in New Orleans and brings his show to LSU, where he should start as a freshman. He has a smooth, line-drive oriented swing and will hit for more power once he fills out his 6-01/185 frame. Morgan is an excellent defender with soft hands and good range.
Alex Freeland, SH, UCF—Freeland had the best summer of any rising true freshman in the country, hitting .397 with an 18/10 BB/K ratio in the Florida Collegiate Summer League.
Brian McLellin, RHH, California—Always known as a glove-first SS, McLellin made enormous strides last summer in the San Diego League, hitting .346 with an .864 OPS against older competition. McLellin has soft hands and a machine gun for an arm.
Drew Bowser, RHH, Stanford—Bowser attained notoriety as a prep SS, but a recent growth spurt which left him at 6-04/220 has pushed him to the hot corner. Stanford’s most high profile positional recruit in the Mark Esquer era, Bowser doesn’t need to sell out to tap into his massive power.
Jake DeLeo (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Georgia Tech—DeLeo, who attended the same Connecticut high school as new Blue Jay George Springer, was starting to see his stock soar when the pandemic hit. Much like Springer, he oozes athleticism and offers an intriguing power/speed combo.
Corey Collins, LHH, Georgia—True freshmen who hit in the middle of SEC lineups are few and far between, and Collins is part of that rare breed. The Georgia native has light-tower power and this fall showed the ability to work the count. A natural catcher, Collins will be challenged by another true freshman, Fernando Gonzalez, for playing time behind the plate and may therefore see a lot of action at 1B or as DH.
Christian Little, RHP, Vanderbilt—Little, still only 17 years and six months, was en route to becoming a top 10 pick in 2022 prior to his decision to enter Vanderbilt a year early. Because the Commodores’ pitching corps is so stacked, Little will be eased into action this spring; however, his dynamite stuff and advanced feel for pitching could make him Vandy’s next pitching legend.
Timmy Manning, LHP, Florida—At 6-02/175, Manning must still fill out before he can realize his vast potential. He’s in the right place as Florida’s loaded pitching staff will ensure that he’s not rushed. Expect Manning to be a mainstay in the Gators’ weekend rotation in 2022.
Cam Brown, RHP, TCU—With a prototypical power pitcher’s build at 6-03/215 and a fastball clocked as high as 97 MPH, Brown’s a good bet to assume the role of midweek starter for the Horned Frogs.
Ty Floyd (2022 draft eligible), RHP, LSU—With Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux, and A.J. Labas headlining the Tigers’ weekend rotation, Floyd will spend this spring pitching high leverage innings out of the bullpen. However, his impressive three-pitch mix should eventually catapult him to LSU’s Friday night starter before he leaves Baton Rouge.
Jason Savacool, RHP, Maryland—Not terribly physical at 6-01/200, Savacool is a polished arm with a heater that sits comfortably in the low 90’s and biting slider. At Maryland he will get the opportunity to hit the ground running as a true freshman.